Style and substance: Casual footwear moves fashion forward

If you strolled through the footwear aisles at Outdoor Retailer, you may have thought you’d accidentally wandered into a department store, as casual brands not necessarily associated with the outdoor industry — such as Kork-Ease, Gentle Souls, Fossil and Aerosoles — were exhibiting.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

If you strolled through the footwear aisles at Outdoor Retailer and you may have thought you’d accidentally wandered into a department store, as casual brands not necessarily associated with the outdoor industry — such as Kork-Ease, Gentle Souls, Fossil and Aerosoles — were exhibiting.

“The fashion-meets-active trend has been huge on the runways and in ready to wear for the last few seasons, and it is having a lasting effect in certain markets, specifically lifestyle footwear,” said Jeanine Pesce, senior editor for trend forecaster Stylesight.

Perhaps in response, companies that built their brands on more technical footwear have been busy expanding their lifestyle collections. Keen unveils its first women’s wedge sandal, the Chelsea (MSRP $100, photo, left), in three styles with leather uppers and rubber and cork outsoles. Chaco goes outdoor chic with its new leather Chill collection; the women’s Dawkins (MSRP $100, photo, right) sports four gladiator-style ankle straps of mixed materials. And Dansko ventures into new territory with its four-sandal women’s Vista collection (MSRP N/A), which combines strappy metallic and patent uppers with molded cork-blend footbeds to “give consumers the ultimate package — dress on top and comfort below,” said Dansko Creative Director Ann Dittrich.

The barefoot trend has hit casual footwear, too. Keen’s new CNX collection, featuring low-profile, lightweight uppers and streamlined footbeds, includes the women’s mesh-and-suede Mercer and the men’s leather Bleecker (MSRP $100). Juil, whose shoes contain a conformable EVA footbed to promote a natural stance, has added Mary Janes in several styles (MSRP $125-$165). Timberland’sEarthkeepers BareStep Double Strap Mary Jane (MSRP $100, photo, left), with handstitched detailing on a leather and suede upper, has internal padding for “barefoot comfort.” And Chaco’s NearGround collection lives up to its name by using a minimalist platform that promotes the foot’s natural support and includes the men’s Mighty (MSRP $90), an updated Z sandal.

Flip-flops and sandals continue to appear in a slew of styles and shapes that promise better fit and more comfort. For example, the women’s Hanaa (MSRP $60) from Ahnu provides better support via its contoured footbed (photo, right). Similarly, Birki’sunveils a new line of sandals employing footbeds with arch support, a deep heel cut, heel-to-toe contact and toe grip to help active consumers recover for a run or hike (photo, left).

Another link between casual footwear and active lifestyle comes via post-workout shoes. GoLite’s women’s Elixir (MSRP $90) and men’s Exhale (MSRP $100) are designed on a neutral last with lightly compressive mesh-and-foam uppers that promote blood flow.

New summer exhibitor Oofos spent four years developing its proprietary, impact-absorbing foam and patented footbed; available in a thong and slide, the shoes are said to reduce fatigue and recharge feet. And that’s something we all could use after a day on the show floor.

--Cindy Hirschfeld

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